Friday, April 23, 2010

But...why is the Rum gone?

Pearls come in about 8 shapes:
Semi Round
and Circled.

Granted we all see some of the many different shapes out there like Keishi (which is actually a mistake currently cultivated somewhat on purpose) and Coin. However, no matter what everyone says the most coveted pearl is the perfectly round salt water pearl.

In artwork we see other shapes show an importance, such as Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring"...showing a lovely luminous drop pearl accentuated because of the simplicity of the rest of the girl's dress.

Due to its appearance in artwork, music and literature, we can deduce that of course pearls are naturally coveted.  Although through time we see that the types of pearls that are most prized and valued are ever changing and dynamic.   For example there was certainly an upsurge in the coveting of naturally occurring yellow pearls after Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt gave a double strand of natural yellow pearls to Jacqueline Kennedy when she and her husband, President John F. Kennedy paid an official visit to Venezuela. By the Way Natural Yellow Pearls come from the islands of Cubagua and Margarita off the Venezuelan cost.  Margarita pearls are very prized and difficult to find.

Tahitian Pearls occur quite rarely, as often the black oyster that can produce them actually ends up producing white pearls most of the time.  Also, white oysters can produce them, however, again this is rare.   It is a rare thing because they are grown naturally and cultivated in Polynesia, however the oysters that produce them do not survive long--which of course would drive up both desire and price for true Tahitian Pearls.

Most "Tahitian" Pearls one finds on the market these days are in fact grown white pearls dyed peacock colors to resemble Tahitian pearls.  The interesting thing about Tahitian pearls is that they really are not black, but in fact range in color from indigo blue, to deep green, browns and dark grays.  Just as finding matched white pearls is difficult, finding matched Tahitian pearls is probably somewhere near 10 times more difficult.

Akoya refers to the type of Oyster a pearl is cultivated inside by man made means.  They can also be called Mikimoto after the man who expanded the use of the Akoya oysters in his son-in-laws patented way of manufacturing pearls.   Mikimoto and Akoya pearls are not interchangeable names per se--but almost all Mikimoto pearls are grown in Akoya shells.  Other manufacturers also use Akoya oysters to grow their bounty--and they usually call themselves Akoya Pearl Manufacturers or Cultivated Salt Water Pearls.

(The picture on the left are Akoya Pearls, the right are Mikimoto pearls)

Mikimoto and Akoya pearls can also be produced to resemble the Black Tahitian Pearl.  It is important to ask where and how the pearl was made when speaking with a jeweler.

And for a little fun:
Why is the rum gone? "The curse of the Black Pearl"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Pearl by any other name would be as pretty…

I know, I know its a little lame to bring in a semi-Shakespearian quote here…but then again maybe not.
“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.” (Shakespeare, The Tempest,  Act 1, Scene 2)

"If that a Pearl may in a Toad's head dwell,
And may be found too in an Oyster-shell;
If things that promise nothing do contain
What better is than Gold: who will disdain,”  (John Bunyan, 1678).

“Not always can flowers, pearls, poetry, protestations, nor even home in another heart, content the awful soul that dwells in clay.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

“A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.” (Robert Frost, “Going for Water.”).

A Pearl is at its simplest a piece of sand caught in a mollusk.  It is trapped there, sort of making the sea creature uncomfortable so that it ends up polishing it into a round beauty…although not always round as we shall see.  Pearls found in the wild are quite rare, and indeed these are the only pearls that can truly say they are ‘natural’.  Most of the pearls on the market are ‘cultured pearls’ or grown by men (and women—I say men to mean mankind) in pearl oysters.  Here an oyster is grown, and a piece of sand is placed in what basically amounts to ‘under the tongue’ like when you have to get your kiddo’s temperature.  It’s the rubbing and discomfort of the oyster that creates the pearl sheen, or luster or nacre on the outside of the pearl.
To be considered high quality Gem Grade salt water pearl, a pearl does not need to happen solely in nature—it merely has to have enough iridescence or nacre on it, making it mostly look like the shell within which it was formed.
As I have stated a naturally occurring pearl is quite rare—and unfortunately the animal must die in order for the pearl to be collected.  It’s sad, but also a reason why “Mother of Pearl” is so popular.  There is simply a near abundance of it due to the nature or pearl gathering and manufacturing.  Plus, the iridescence in the actual mother of pearl determines the luster of the pearl inside the animal.  A superior mother of pearl would therefore, generate a superior pearl.  
Generally there are of course two basic types of pearls—saltwater and freshwater.  Within these two general types is where we have to go further to separate the grades, qualities and those given certain names.

 Mother of Pearl made into “Shell Pearls” in order to resemble High Quality Gem Grade pearls.

Note the iridescence on these fresh water “Coin Pearls”  These came from a higher end ‘Mother of Pearl’ or “Freshwater Pearl Oyster”
As an example of the value of natural salt water pearls:
In 1917, jeweler Pierre Cartier purchased the Fifth Avenue mansion that became the New York “Cartier” store for US$100 cash and a double strand of matched natural pearls worth 1 million dollars (US) in 1917 currency.

Next Stop, Akoya and Tahitian.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It's been a few days and I have been literally swimming in my new gems and jewels.  I bought a lot for the site, but seriously, when looking at them, how am I to give them up personally?  It's the selfish streak when I look especially at the super grade AAA Lapis Lazuli briolettes.  Mmmm, Lapis Lazuli.  Mmmm.  Nuff said.

So I have been playing with funky new stones I have not had int he shop before, as well as sold standbys that are always in season, like Jade and Pearls.

Oh yeah pearls, wasn't I supposed to write more on that topic?  I am sure I was.

So next stop will be Salt Water Pearls in variety that come with them naturally--like Tahitian.  I may skim across Akoya, but those are actually cultured and probably should not go into 'natural' pearls.

Ever wonder how they get those deep colors on cultured pearls?  They dye the water they culture (grow) the pearls in.  Interesting, no?

This is a custom order for Shell Pearls from my site, they turned out nice, no?  And somewhat different indeed from the original set of mixed Pearls and Jade, as seen below.

Funny, those are the same colors, but different sizes, no?

Saturday, April 17, 2010


So here is is 9am, and we were supposed to leave for Houston at 7 for a new Jewelry Show.  It's about 3.5 hours from here, or so I hear--but I am still waiting for Matt to get home from a night in the pouring rain on the range watching stuff...again, I hear.

We are specifically going to look at pearls and shell pearls for a few custom orders that are coming in for mothers day--especially some for my sister Sarah who loves her some pearls.

Which reminds me, in between class stuff, interview stuff and housework stuff I should try to fit in a few more articles on pearls.  I still have to cover salt water pearls, fresh water pearls and some of the funky named pearls, like Akoya, Tahitian, etc.  I am certain you will be surprised when I tell you how simple it is to memorize the pearl information.

Also, I think I should get into some neat information about certain stones, like Beryl.  Beryl is an interesting thing--it comes in four distinct colors when it is high end--the two most famous being Aquamarine (blue) and Emerald (green).  Yes that's right, Emerald and Aquamarine are basically the same stone but with different amounts of certain minerals in there. 

The pink you see is Morganite, which is a fun stone all itself, and the Yellow is Heliador.  Which are fantastic historical names invoking wonderful Mythical human remembrances.  Think Morgan, queen of the faey, and Heliador comes from none other than an ancient name for Sun. Rather fitting, no...especially when you go through what these fantastic stones originally meant linguistically. 
Did I tell you all I have this odd fascination with Etymology and historical meanings of words and names.  Yup, I do.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pearls, Pearls, Pearls

Pearls can be daunting, so much so that I have been meaning to write this post for over a week due to lack of a logical place to start. 

I suppose historical would be good.  History always intrigues me.

Historically man looked for salt water pearls, so much so that finding a pearl was likened in Art, especially in the high renaissance.  Think "Birth of Venus" by Botticelli. (Birth of Venus Wiki Page)  While of course this rendition in art is a far cry from the actual myth of the birth of Venus, it is still important to note how she was viewed in the painting.  The goddess of beauty, being born from the fruit that brings us also that prized possession of a perfect salt water pearl?  Surely it would grip the imagination of jewelry makers world wide.

Further than just the depiction in Art of Pearls, or where we get pure white pearls, think to later artistic ages.  The Baroque.  Why do we call some fresh water pearls baroque--well historically and etymologically it is only fitting.  And don't forget more modern adaptations of high middle ages and renaissance work--like Anne Boleyn's famous "B" Pearl necklace in "The Other Boleyn Girl"  (Film and Book).  (I am certain it is spelled Boelyn--but it comes up that way too.)

(Boleyn Reproduction Necklace)  I have not really perused this site--but it is a neat reproduction.

The term baroque has its origins in the description of none other than a pearl. (Etymology of "Baroque").  While Baroque became a word denoting 'grotesque' it is also, uneven, irregular in shape, and by no means perfect.  Now we say baroque to give a description of a less than perfect, yet unique piece, or in my case strand of pearls--because if nothing I am a formal traditionalist. 
(Green Gold Baroque Freshwater Pearls)

Now I suppose I shall research Salt and Freshwater Pearls...

Although before I do that here is a good article on quality: Pearl Guide

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Shell Pearls

Well, I am totally writing this at the crack of dawn as my kids get ready for school.   And, I have not had enough coffee, so who knows how it will turn out.

I am pretty sure I have talked about this before, but yesterday I had a customer ask about Shell Pearls.  After I am sure I bored her to tears with my lengthy rendition on pearls and shell pearls--I am pretty sure I bored her anyhow--I said I would write a blog post about it.

Shell Pearls are not real pearls, nor were they ever.   Shell pearls are made from Mother of Pearl (when they are good) and Made to have a look and feel of a real pearl.  And when you get the good ones, they really do.  Unlike glass or plastic pearls, used in costume jewelry for ages now--shell pearls are sort of new, and really come in any size--from about 4mm all the way up to about 24mm.  Yes they can be huge.

I see a lot of people wearing them, even still a few years after they became really really popular.  There was a time I could not keep shell pearls in stock in any way shape or form.  But, they are still popular.

I am thinking I should probably talk about pearls for a couple of days here--or  maybe get some coffee in me ASAP.

For Further Information, I found this neat article (it's short) on the manufacturing of shell pearls:

Personally I like them for the price, for the quality, and for the look and feel.  My sister likes to call the feel "substantial"  because they have a weight to them very much like a real pearl would.   I buy my shell pearls almost exclusively at shows--except for the strands I have bought at The Bead Factory  (Tacoma, Washington). 

Because I have to feel the pearl to know the quality--it's not something you can just look at a picture of and know what you are getting

Here's a pic of Shell Pearls, you can almost see how wonderfully full the luster is, and the perfect uniform shape:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Oh wow, did I just do that?

So I made myself a promise recently.  After searching for a supplier of gems from over seas, and being disappointed in the stones that arrived but further the customer service I got through email correspondence...I promised myself that I would not buy any more gems until I was up in Washington this summer for not one, but two shows.
 1) The Intergem show that happens in June in the Seattle Center and Northwest rooms.  I love that show.  It is separated so I can wear my kids out usually between the retail section and the wholesale walking them halfway across the Seattle Center.  Super cool. Plus there is this fabulous supermarket across the street from where my mom and I park every year.  (
2) The Puget Sound Bead Festival.  This happens in the first part of July in Tacoma, usually at the Sheraton or something.  We end up parking at my Alma mater, ( and walking the kids to the show because its cramped and tight spaces usually.  My mother loves it, I kinda get freaked out in crowds, but its still a wonderful show. (

Then I got online just to look.

100$ later I broke my promise to myself as I hit, "Confirm purchase."

Sigh, I have no will power.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's been a while

I just wanted to drop a quick line and tell you all that I'm sorry.  I have not been writing for a few days as I catch up on some cleaning, schoolwork and my kids garden.  We are attempting to make a garden this year--well more of a patio garden because you are not really supposed to rip up grass on post and plant carrots and squash and stuff :)

I will be back to normal pretty soon, with the blogging, tweeting and the facebook.